AN OFF-DUTY police officer who spotted a man he thought was driving a car whilst disqualified was actually doing so without any insurance or driving licence.

Ryan James Birney (28), of Main Street, Maguiresbridge, was observed in the vicinity of Gardiners Road, Maguiresbridge on May 16 driving a Volkswagen Golf with a female passenger.

At Enniskillen Magistrates Court on Monday, it was heard that following the report from the off-duty officer, checks were made, which showed that Birney's disqualification had ended a month earlier, but he had no valid driving licence.

On the day in question, the car was driven into a shop forecourt to fill up and when this was done, Birney got into the passenger seat of the car before moving over to the driver's seat, with the female sitting in the passenger seat.

When Birney was interviewed about the incident, he gave no comment.

Steffan Rafferty, barrister for Birney, asked the court to give his client credit for his guilty plea.

He pointed out that the defendant had reapplied for a driving licence once his disqualification had ended, but mistakenly sent the application to Swansea, believing all DVA matters were dealt with there.

After a time, it was eventually transferred to the DVA in Coleraine.

Mr. Rafferty said his client believed that by setting the "wheels in motion" to get his licence, he was sufficiently covered, and that through consultation it was discovered the insurance policy on the car only covered his girlfriend.

He added it was "a foolish mistake to jump into the driver's seat", and that Birney's girlfriend had driven to the shop and could have driven home.

Mr. Rafferty also said Birney was currently looking for work, and asked the court to temper the driving disqualification so as not to impede his client's job search.

Remarking that what happened to Birney was "by his own hand", District Judge Steven Keown handed down a three-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, along with a two-year disqualification from driving, and a £100 fine for having no insurance or driving licence.